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Essex-class aircraft carrier
27,100 Tons (standard)
820' x 93' x 28' 5" (as built)
4 x Twin 5" guns
4 x Single 5" guns
8 x Quad 40mm
46 x 20mm AA guns
On the last day of June 1944, departed to participate in a strikes on the Bonin Islands in support of the assault on the Marianas Islands. On 4 July 4, 1944, strikes were launched against Iwo Jima, Chichi Jima, and Haha Jima with her planes attacking land targets and sinking a large cargo vessel in the harbor and setting three smaller ships on fire.
On July 6, Franklin began strikes on Guam and Rota as part of the preparations for the assault on Guam, and those strikes continued until the 21st when she lent direct support to enable safe landing of the first assault waves.
Replenished for two days at Saipan, then joined in Task Force 58 (TF 58) for photographic reconnaissance and air strikes against Palau. Her planes effected their mission on the 25th and 26th, exacting a heavy toll in enemy planes, ships, and ground installations. Franklin departed on July 28 and returned for Saipan, and the following day she was shifted to TG 58.1.
Although high seas prevented taking on a needed load of bombs and rockets, Franklin steamed for another raid against the Bonins. On August 4, bode well, her fighters attacked Chichi Jima and her dive bombers and torpedo planes against a ship convoy north of Ototo Jima were very effective against the radio stations, seaplane base, airstrips, and ships.
Afterwards, steamed to Eniwetok for a period of upkeep and recreation from August 9-28, then departed with USS Essex CV-9, USS Belleau Wood CVL-24 and USS San Jacinto CVL-30 for neutralization and diversionary attacks against the Bonins. From August 31 to September 2, strikes from Franklin targeted ground targets, sank two cargo ships, bagged numerous enemy planes in flight, and accomplished photographic survey.
On September 4, Franklin took on supplies at Saipan, and then she steamed with TG 38.1 for an attacks against Yap during September 3-8. Lost is F6F Hellcat 58140 pilot rescued. Next, provided air cover for the invasion of Peleliu on September 15. The Task Group took on supplies at Manus during September 21 to 25.
Franklin was selected as flagship of TG 38.4, returned to the Peleliu and launched daily patrols and night fighters. On October 9, she rendezvoused with carrier groups cooperating in air strikes in support of the coming landing on Leyte. At twilight on the 13th, the task group came under attack by four bombers, and Franklin twice was narrowly missed by torpedoes. An enemy plane, crashed on Franklin's deck abaft the aircraft carrier's island, and it slid across the deck and off the deck into the water on her starboard beam.
During the initial landings on Leyte on October 20, the aircraft of Franklin hit surrounding airstrips and launched search patrols in anticipation of the approach of a reported enemy attack force. On the morning of 24 October, in the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, her planes formed part of the waves that attacked the Japanese First Raiding Force (under Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita), in so doing helping to sink Musashi south of Luzon, damage Fusō and Yamashiro, and sink Wakaba. As further enemy threats seemed to materialize in another quarter, Franklin - with TGs 38.4, 38.3, and 38.2 - sped to intercept the advancing Japanese carrier force and attack at dawn. The distant carrier force was actually a sacrificial feint, as by that time the Japanese were almost out of serviceable airplanes and, even more importantly, very short on trained pilots, but the admiral in charge, William Halsey, took the bait and steamed furiously off after them without communicating his intentions clearly, leading to the infamous the world wonders communications debacle. Franklin's strike groups combined with those from the other carriers on 25 October in the Battle off Cape Engaño to damage Chiyoda (she would be sunk by American cruiser gunfire subsequently) and sink Zuihō.
Retiring in her task group to refuel, she returned to the Leyte action on 27 October, her planes concentrating on a heavy cruiser and two destroyers south of Mindoro.
Patrolling of Japan
Damaged by Bombs
At the time she was struck, Franklin had 31 armed and fueled aircraft warming up on her flight deck. The hangar deck contained 22 additional planes, of which 16 were fueled and five were armed. The forward gasoline system had been secured, but the aft system was operating. The explosion on the hangar deck ignited the fuel tanks on the aircraft, and gasoline vapor explosion devastated the deck. Only two crewmen survived the fire on the hangar deck. The explosion also jumbled aircraft together on the flight deck above, causing further fires and explosions, including the detonation of 12 Tiny Tim rockets. Three-quarter inch armor had been installed on the hangar deck when last repaired, and this contained the explosion and fire and prevented spread of the fire below.
Franklin lay dead in the water, took a 13° starboard list, lost all radio communications, and broiled under the heat from enveloping fires. Many of the crew were blown overboard, driven off by fire, killed or wounded, but the hundreds of officers and enlisted who voluntarily remained saved their ship. The casualties totaled 724 killed and 265 wounded, and would have far exceeded this number, but for the work of many survivors. Among these were the Medal of Honor recipients Lieutenant Commander Joseph T. O'Callahan, the warship's chaplain, who administered the last rites, organized and directed firefighting and rescue parties, and led men below to wet down magazines that threatened to explode; and also Lieutenant JG Donald A. Gary, who discovered 300 men trapped in a blackened mess compartment and, finding an exit, returned repeatedly to lead groups to safety. Gary later organized and led fire-fighting parties to battle fires on the hangar deck and entered the No. 3 fire room to raise steam in one boiler. The Santa Fe rescued crewmen from the sea and approached Franklin to take off the numerous wounded and nonessential personnel. Franklin had suffered the most severe damage experienced by any U.S. fleet carrier that survived World War II.
Upon Franklin's arrival, a long-brewing controversy over the ship's crew's conduct during her struggles finally came to a head. Captain Gehres had accused many of those who had left the ship on 19 March 1945 of desertion, even those who had jumped into the water to escape a likely death by fire, or had been led to believe that "abandon ship" had been ordered. While en route from Ulithi Atoll to Hawaii, Gehres had proclaimed 704 members of the crew to be members of the "Big Ben 704 Club" for having stayed with the heavily-damaged warship, but investigators in New York discovered that only about 400 were actually onboard Franklin continuously. The others had been brought back on board either before and during the stop at Ulithi. All of the charges against the men of her crew were quietly dropped.
Despite severe damage, Franklin was eventually successfully restored to good condition. She steamed to New York because all of the repair shipyards on the West Coast were heavily overloaded with warships damaged by kamikazes.
While Franklin lay mothballed at Bayonne, redesignated as an attack aircraft carrier CVA-13 on 1 October 1952, an antisubmarine warfare support carrier CVS-13 on 8 August 1953 and, ultimately, as an aircraft transport AVT-8 on 15 May 1959. In the end, this warship never went to sea again, and she was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 1 October 1964. She and Bunker Hill - which also had sustained severe damage from aerial attack - were the only carriers in their class that never saw any active-duty postwar service, though their wartime damage had been successfully repaired.
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